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Dust from the Sahara Desert is heading for the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama

 Saharan dust can lead to vivid sunrises and sunsets. (Source: WSFA)
Saharan dust can lead to vivid sunrises and sunsets. (Source: WSFA) (WTVY News 4)
Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 10:41 AM CDT
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It’s that time of year again, folks! Dust from the Sahara Desert is becoming highly concentrated in the atmosphere across North Africa and the eastern Atlantic Ocean.

The huge plume of dust is beginning its yearly westward trek across the Atlantic Ocean. While the exact dates of the annual “Saharan dust migration” vary from year to year, mid-June is a very common time for it to occur.

As the dust plume moves across the Atlantic Ocean it will lose some of its concentration. However, there will remain enough dust in the middle and upper levels of the atmosphere to make it into the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and eventually the Southeast U.S.

Yes, believe it or not, that does include us right here in Alabama!

By the time we get to June 23rd or so, the dry and dusty air will make it to coastal Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. While it won’t be overly dense, some areas of locally higher dust concentrations will probably exist.

It’s impossible to say where those areas will be, but some coastal (and perhaps inland) locations could see at least some air quality and breathing/health issues arise by the middle of next week.

That will especially be true for those who suffer from respiratory problems. Just keep this in mind as we progress through next week. If the dust concentration is high enough, highly sensitive folks may have to avoid outdoor exposure for a time.

Fortunately it doesn’t look like this year’s Saharan dust concentration will be high enough here in Alabama to cause extensive problems.

But poor air quality is only one side effect of these annual Saharan dust invasions.

While it may seem rather odd, the other effects of the dust are actually positive!

For example, the dust that gets deposited in the Caribbean helps build up the beaches down there! It also aids in the fertilization of the Amazon Rainforest! For us here in Alabama, the two positive results of Saharan dust are vividly colorful sunrises and sunsets, and a suppression of tropical cyclone development in the Atlantic basin.

The dust creates very dry layers in the atmosphere, which highly discourages tropical storm and hurricane development. Tropical systems need warm, moist air to form, strengthen and maintain themselves. With the dry, dusty air in place, the Atlantic basin is typically quiet this time of year!

As we get closer to the arrival of the dust, we will provide more information. What you need to know for now is we have the potential for minor air quality concerns next week, as well as some very beautiful sunsets! Get those cameras ready!

Copyright 2020 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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